Ys VIII is a captivating adventure discovering the prehistoric past of an island, but hopefully you can look past the lackluster localization to enjoy it.
Lacrimosa. The latin word for “mourning”, but there are only a few things to cry about in this latest game. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana fluctuates between enjoyable and uncomfortable experiences, but overall the positives outweighed the negatives in this game suitable for all levels of players.
Ys VIII carries the same formula of the franchise with a shipwreck but keeps things interesting with a bright cast. Adol Christin is on board the Lombardia when a large sea monster attacks the boat and strands your hero on a deserted island. You have the staples of previous games, Adol and Dogi, but you also have new main characters with different stories to tell, such as Dania, Sahad, and Laxia. Intertwining multiple past worlds together into the present, things are never what they seem.
The player will explore the island they are stranded on and the members of the Lombardia. Adol and his party will uncover new lands, from rolling green hills to ocean cliffsides. Upon discovering areas, Adol will gather more shipwrecked people. Chapter 2 is the longest chapter as it sets up the island colony of everyone you meet. Different personalities and flavors lead to interesting revelations. The game allows you to learn more about these characters with side quests and gift-giving, but the relationships are limited and not as comprehensive as other social-building games. Finding people will prove important farther into the game: more people will join your battle party and a larger colony will allow you access to other parts of the island. Due to this format, I highly recommend playing this game on a portable such as PS Vita or Nintendo Switch.
Localization for Ys VIII unfortunately is not up to par majority of the time, which can hinder your experience moving through the story. To start, the game would feel more immersive major cutscenes were dubbed. Conversations are followed up with onomatopoeia but never fully said when you expect it. Then there’s the translated dialogue itself. Upon its first release in 2016, many fans have complained about awkward dialogue choices. The game’s publisher, NIS (Nippon Ichi Software) America, fixed language issues early 2018 for all ports of the game. I experienced that version of the game, and I do not see what they fixed as points of conversation are confusing to digest. Here are some grammar points I was unable to forget:
- Characters will repeat the exact same thing another character said seconds before
- Dialogue would include too many words and cause run-on sentences
- Idioms are unnatural to American English
“What a little blowmind!” – Laxia
I was able to put aside the cheesy slang and poor sentence structure, but it makes up a lot of the game and I understand if players get tired of it.
Gameplay has one of the most forgiving active battle systems I have played, but not without some challenges. Attacks replenish SP almost too much that I never needed to worry about being drained, so you might as well utilize those moves consistently because they cover different directions and pain points. But the game is more than an active battle, rewarding players who can adjust to the environment and avoid attacks at the right time. Monsters change depending on the area and may require different strategy to defeat. Monsters close to the beach, for example, allow players to move around the open field while certain areas limit the battleground. Some bosses lambast fiery aerial attacks and other bosses pull you off safe ground and into muddy areas. Farther down, exploiting Flash Move or Flash Guard becomes valuable to defeating bigger enemies and bosses. Players can use Flash Move or Flash Guard by pressing L1 to dodge or R1 to guard right as an enemy is about to attack. Successful dodges and guards create a small window of paused time, allowing Adol and his party to attack repeatedly without monsters attacking.
Occasionally, the colony will suffer a raid from pesky enemies and everyone will need to defend their ground. Monsters will attack in waves and get progressively harder by the last level. The player will need to keep an eye out for each entrance and spread their resources. You can also boost defense through upgrading barriers and lures. Not every raid is required, but successfully beating each raid will grant you more items for recipes and weaponry. It is also downright fun and easily one of the best parts of the game!
The Verdict: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana contains easy elements with a learning curve substantial enjoyable for any JRPG player. Dub is noticeably bad compared to other JRPGs but if you can look past it the game is worth a play, especially on PS Vita and Switch.
Watch PlayStation and Nintendo’s official trailers here: